One of the concerns frequently raised when I was running for Oakland
Mills CCR was that of abandoned homes, neglected and ill-kept homes.
Some folks had experience in dealing with the Village Residential Architectural Committee, some had not. But the overall feeling was
that the system we have in place is not working as well as it should.
As residents, my husband and I went through the RAC process when we
installed replacement windows in our home. The company we used did not
offer windows whose edge-frames matched others in our neighborhood. So
we had to file an application for permission to have windows with beige
frames. We even got a sample to bring to the RAC meeting.
We were treated courteously by the committee. It was clear that they had
come out and looked around our neighborhood, and talked to our HOA
management in making their decision. They approved our application and
we were on our way.
As a member of the Oakland Mills Board, I participated in hearings and
decisions that were a lot more complicated and, at times, contentious.
Residents did not always go away feeling satisfied. And in the case of
neglected properties, the Board often felt that progress was slow and
that the option we had to prompt improvement were insufficient.
Each Village in Columbia was founded at a different time. They have
different election laws, different RAC guidelines, differing numbers of
Board members, etc. Should RAC guidelines be updated and consistent
Columbia-wide? This post by Alison H. On Inspire Columbia got me
"The RAC process is administered by residents based on guidelines that
have not been updated in many many years. As Columbia ages, we should be
encouraging appropriate investment in homes to improve and recapitalize
structures as they age.
Guidelines and design handbooks for neighborhoods are in many cases
outdated and administered by residents, lending to an ineffective and
inconsistent process administered by well-meaning volunteers, however
certain aspects of the process may discourage resident investment and
improvement in their structures. With homes 30 years + old, design
standards should be updated and improved.
Recommend changes to process, current process disincentives residents to
improve aesthetics of home and encourages status quo over innovation
Consider engaging an architect to guide process but with a vantage point toward innovation rather than restricting innovation."
I can say truthfully from my own experience that the RAC and the Village
Board in Oakland Mills gives a lot of thought to their work. We are
lucky to have residents who are willing to volunteer to give their time
and educate themselves on the guidelines, meet with neighbors, go out
and evaluate properties. Our RAC has already updated the OM Guidelines,
under then-Committee Chair Brian Donoughe.
At present, Columbia's RAC process is run by residents, for residents,
guided by a professional Covenant Advisor in each Village. It is a
complaint-driven system, so violations may happily persist if no one
complains about them. So it may feel as though covenant guidelines are
enforced inconsistently. Progress on neglected properties follows a
lengthy, multi-step process.